Hundreds of vehicles have been stolen from Canada’s busiest airport as police in and around Toronto struggle to contain a rise in car thefts.
Since the beginning of 2023, the airport has reported 410 vehicle thefts from its garages.
Sunil Parasar owned one of the vehicles stolen from the airport this year.
He said he paid almost $200 to park his car at Terminal 1 while he took his family on a week-long vacation to the Caribbean.
When he returned, his car was gone and someone else’s was parked in its place.
“I feel by taking it to the airport, I pretty much just offered it on a buffet to the car thieves,” he told Global News.
Parking garages at the airport, where vehicles can be left for days or weeks at a time, provide fertile ground for vehicle theft, local police say.
“‘Shopping for’ is a great term because this is a reality of why it is occurring at the airport, it’s a reality of why it is occurring at other locations where there are multiple vehicles parked in one place,” Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich told Global News.
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A spokesperson for Toronto Pearson International Airport said they relied on both police and security to regularly patrol parking garages and crack down on thefts.
“Car theft is a billion-dollar racket in the Greater Toronto Area, with Peel Region particularly hard-hit,” they said.
“We work collaboratively with Peel Region Police and others to regularly implement countermeasures to prevent thefts.”
Around 3.5 million vehicles per year enter and exit the airport’s parking lots “without incident or concern,” according to the airport.
Peel police have not warned against parking at the airport but are encouraging people to invest in additional, third-party security measures for their cars that will make them harder to steal.
The airport’s struggle with vehicle thefts comes as both Toronto and Ontario contend with a wave of car thefts.
At a recent event, investigators with Toronto police showed off the results from one of many vehicle theft investigations that led to the recovery of 1,000 vehicles and saw 220 people charged.
In October, it was announced Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto police would co-lead a task force focusing specifically on the rise in carjackings.
In a joint statement, the forces say there have been more than 300 carjackings in the GTA this year, with over 200 of those taking place in Toronto.
Vehicle theft more broadly has spiked in recent years, with some insurance industry groups calling it a crisis.
A total of almost 10,000 vehicles have been stolen in Toronto so far since the start of 2023, according to Toronto police.